During a river cruise in Europe, new rules and regulations

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An late August, I jumped in a car to catch a plane from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Amsterdam. My mission, from there: a cruise on the Rhine, traveling from the Netherlands to Germany, then France, Germany (again), before ending up in Switzerland. My ship? What’s new for 2021 AmaSienne, a 156-passenger AmaWaterways vessel that, at just 38 feet wide and 443 feet long, would carry me and 102 other passengers across Europe, stopping in seven cities along the way.

Although this had a typical cruise schedule, it was not a typical cruise. On the one hand, since August 4, AmaWaterways required that all guests be vaccinated, and the ship was capped at 75 percent of its capacity. Between new crossings, the crew spent four hours deep cleaning the cabins and common areas, and a misting system is deployed to disinfect the surfaces. The temperatures were to be taken before boarding and at breakfast. All guests were to be masked unless they were seated and eating, and all staff wore masks and manned disinfection stations that flanked all entry and exit points of the ship. No more buffet meals, and the gym – which normally could seat eight people for workouts – was limited to two people. Dancing? Prohibited. Said Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-founder of AmaWaterways: “Things have changed since the Delta variant. But these protocols are better for everyone and safer for everyone. “

Off the ship, things were also different. We had to travel through several European countries, each with their own entry and exit and quarantine requirements. What would that look like on the ground and what would crossing borders look like? My anxiety about what to produce quickly eased: before arriving in each new country, AmaWaterways staff informed us of what was required in each destination and shared links to paperwork to fill out (and in some cases, physical documents).

Even though I’d never been on a river cruise before, I quickly saw the appeal: your food – all you can eat, served by well-dressed waiters – was just steps from your room, your bedroom. a few steps from the ship’s sundeck, and the deck a few steps from a destination, once moored. It was a floating hotel, in a sense, and after more than a year of no travel, this slow return was not only appropriate, but also a little to the point.

For those who are considering or considering a river cruise in Europe, here are some details on what to expect.

In the Nederlands

Before even getting on the ship, to get to the Netherlands, I had to produce either a negative COVID test or a vaccination card, as required by the Dutch government. (Still the over-preparer, at the airport I produced both with a flourish.) I also had to fill out a health declaration form for the Netherlands, which confirmed that I had no COVID symptoms. . But once I landed I got through customs and baggage claim faster than you could tell all ziens (Bye): I left for the port to drop off my luggage and meet my brother, who is based in Brussels and who was joining me for the trip. “Prepare yourself,” he told me, when I called to let him know I had arrived. “No one here wears masks. ”

He wasn’t exaggerating. I can count on one hand the number of people I saw wearing masks outside Amsterdam, and inside the numbers were about the same. He and I were both wearing masks when we walked into a store, but it wasn’t mandatory, nor were we asked to produce some sort of proof of vaccination. (Notice the vaccination rates: around 83% of the Dutch have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and the country has one of the highest vaccination rates in the European Union.) We were a little suspicious, but this is not the case. it takes time for us to settle into our routine of what we always do in Amsterdam, as our parents own a small caravan outside the city: sitting by the canal, drinking beer and eating bitter balls, or Dutch meatballs.

Hours later back on the ship we nodded ” nice to meet you ” at our socially distant travel companions and took off our masks, briefly, for dinner at the Chef’s Table, a tasting menu with three starters, three main courses and three desserts. I felt uncomfortable, despite the distancing and disinfection and knowing that everyone was vaccinated. In the morning, we would sail to Germany.

Travel rules in the Netherlands: At press time, to visit the Netherlands, vaccinated travelers will need to present a negative PCR or COVID-19 antigen test carried out within 24 hours before departure for the Netherlands. (Children under 12 are exempt.) Unvaccinated travelers are prohibited from entering the Netherlands for non-essential travel or leisure purposes. Find out more about the entry requirements for traveling to the Netherlands.

In Germany

Our first day of sailing was sunny, but the threat of paperwork loomed: before arriving in Germany on days two, three and five of sailing – where we would visit the cities of Cologne, Rüdesheim and Breisach – I had to complete the form. digital registration, which asked for the countries I had visited in the last 14 days, the address where I would stay and whether or not I had proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. I uploaded my proof of vaccination and then received a QR code that I could show to authorities in case someone asked. Altogether it was a 20 minute process – not bad, all things considered, although I completed it twice for fear of being fined 25,000 euros. When finished, I made my way to the deck above the ship, which had a walking track, pool, and lounge chairs. A waiter handed out mimosas, and as we headed to Germany and left the Netherlands behind, the town gave way to green pastures and grazing sheep. My brother and I spent those first few hours sailing there, sitting. I could practically feel some of the anxiety related to the COVID trip melt away.

The next day, on land in Germany, I didn’t meet anyone who asked me for proof of my digital registration form. What everyone in restaurants and bars, even outdoors,made ask, without fail: name, e-mail, address and phone number for contact tracing purposes. After a few rounds of paperwork in hand, I did as the Germans did and downloaded the Luca app, which de facto works as a digital guest list for restaurants. Simply scan the QR code to register and swipe into the app to verify, creating a record of where you have been – and for how long – in case the information is needed for contact tracing purposes.

Unlike Amsterdam, masks were widespread in Germany. (Our tour guides in Cologne and Breisach told us they had to wear them, even outside.) Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test was required for meals inside, and apart a few second glances at the dates I had received vaccines – the Germans enter the day, month and year rather than month, day and year – I had no problem presenting my CDC card as proof. The more time I spent in Germany, the more it felt like a homecoming: my brother and I grew up in Germany and traveled countless times to Cologne and Rüdesheim, but it had been years since we were income. Back to Germany, back on a trip.

Germany travel rules: As of press time, Germany no longer allows unvaccinated Americans to enter for pleasure travel after removing the United States from its list of unrestricted countries. Those arriving from countries not on the list must either be vaccinated or travel for an essential reason (such as an approved work reason). For proof of vaccination, there must be at least 14 days since the last dose of vaccine was administered, and travelers must have a physical copy of their vaccination certificate. A digital photo of a card will not be accepted. Find out more about the entry requirements for traveling to Germany.

In France

Before arriving in Strasbourg, France, I had to complete a declaration on my honor, in which I verified that I had no COVID or symptoms. (I printed two copies and took the papers with me, although I was never asked to show them.) And although we’re only three kilometers from the German border, the rules were different: you don’t were not allowed to enter a restaurant or bar … even if you were seated outside, without showing proof of a negative COVID test or a physical vaccination card. There was a bit of a whiplash: in Germany a few hours earlier we had been allowed to sit outside as long as we were submitting contact tracing information, nothing else.

Yet, as in the Netherlands and Germany, this requirement quickly became a routine to which we adapted: we sat for an espresso in the sun near Strasbourg Cathedral, showing our vaccination cards. Before ordering. We headed to the Petite-France district to eat al fresco at La Fignette, an Alsatian restaurant specializing in tarte flambée (Where flammkuchen, in German). We drank beer again on a boat moored on the river, before heading back to our own boat to set sail, once again.

Travel rules in France: At the time of going to press, vaccinated travelers from the United States can enter France without any other requirement than the submission of the health declaration form. Unvaccinated US travelers are no longer allowed to travel to France unless they have a compelling or compelling reason, such as being an EU citizen or resident, for essential work or for study. Learn more about the rules for traveling to France.

In Swiss

From France we returned to Germany for a foray into the Black Forest, so that was another change – a return to contact tracing, but otherwise all existing documents were blocked. After that, we sailed to the Swiss city of Basel, where we disembarked. Once there, I ended my trip much the same way I started it a week ago: a car to a train to a plane.

Travel rules in Switzerland: At the time of going to press, effective September 20, travelers over the age of 16 entering Switzerland who have not been vaccinated or have not recovered from COVID-19 will be required to present a negative test result (PCR or antigen) and be retested after four to seven days. . (Testing is not required for travelers with proof of vaccination or recovery.) Learn more about the rules for traveling to Switzerland.

Key tips for taking a European river cruise right now

Regardless of how you travel, be sure to take a photo of your vaccination card and have the physical copy with you when you go out, along with the health declaration forms. Search for countries and respective contact finder apps, and download them before you arrive to speed up your entry and exit to bars, restaurants and other venues.

>> Next: These countries are open to vaccinated travelers


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